Some months ago, we started toying with the idea of extending business opportunities for our small local farmers by encouraging the local processing of their harvest. Soon enough I ended up with several #10 cans of locally and sustainably grown green beans on my desk to the dismay of my peers and our CEO. The Director of Culinary Support has canned green beans on this desk? What gives?
These beans were produced by Truitt Brothers in Oregon and the product had many of the right elements that are important to us: family farms, sustainability, low carbon foot print – except for the fact they were canned. I was lost as to how to approach this, being personally entrenched in our food philosophy that is deeply anchored in using fresh. At the same time, I know the reality that seasonal ingredients are limited I (if not existent) in most regions during winter months and that at some point we are either buying fresh from far away places or we are buying frozen from far away places. Neither of which are sustainable practices.
So something intrigued me about using THIS local canned product. When I tested the water with a few of our most vocal chefs, I got major push back as soon as I mentioned the "C" word. The level of dissidence didn’t surprise me. As a matter of fact, I would have been surprised if I had not gotten this kind of reaction. Slowly but surely, I planted the seed here and there until I engaged my most vocal dissident, Marc Marelich (GM, Willamette University) to "consider" it. Marc is also a chef by trade. I have worked with him on several culinary project. I have major trust in his palate and his opinion.
Soon enough Marc M was testing on his own and discovered that the quality of a this canned green bean was much better than a frozen green for many kitchen applications. What a Hallelujah moment this was for me! My biggest hurdle on this project was to jump that all important fence of dissidence we expect from our chefs when we start to talk about sacrificing quality or flavor. And it took a big jump for these chefs to go from fresh to canned but now we have a model that can encourage the extention the seasons and increase business opportunities for small farmers across the country…without sacrificing quality or flavor.
Of note and as is typical in our culture, Marc M visited the farm and the farmer before making his final decision. He become the spokesperson for the product at a regional chef meeting allowing me to make room on my desk for more cans full of elements of what we stand for…including good flavor.
submitted: marc zammit: director culinary support and development